We Are Not All Americans

Dec 092003
Authors: Brent Ables

In the weeks after the world-altering attacks on the World Trade

Center, the nations of the world (outside the United States) voiced

their promises of solidarity with our damaged country. Except for

in those nations already hostile to the American government, the

peoples of the world cried out that they felt the Americans’ pain,

that they would throw their moral, financial and military support

behind an ethical and proper response to the horrendous Sept. 11

attacks. And for a while, at least through the war in Afghanistan,

it seems the United States was willing to cooperate and work


However, as any American with the slightest interest in the

international scene can attest, this graciousness has not lasted.

Eschewing the outstretched hands and hearts of the worlds’

citizens, the Bush administration has chosen instead a course of

what might be deemed reverse isolationism; instead of America

keeping to itself, as it is deigned to do in the past, it is

insisting upon it’s right to act wherever and however it feels in

the world, regardless of international support and criticism. The

effect of this “Bush Doctrine” on the international community has

been devastating. The United Nations, at one time the unified hope

of a world threatened by belligerent nations, has become little

more than a symbol of the failure of international dialogue and


The world’s new attitude towards the United States comes

principally from the behavior and actions not of the “common”

American, but instead of a very small and very powerful group of

men and women in Washington. The aggressiveness, absolutism and

monochromatic world view – “either you’re with us or you’re against

us” – of the Bush administration has not only offended the national

sensibilities of the majority of our current or former allies, it

has dropped United States-European relations to an unprecedented

low point. Aside from the well-known battle in the United Nations

over the war in Iraq, Bush has sanctioned the United States’

withdraw or abstinence from countless international treaties and

movements. For example, the United States withdrawal from the Kyoto

treaty, the veto of the International Criminal Court, the

withdrawal from the Chemical and Biological Weapons conventions,

the opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the recent

conflict with the European Union over what the World Trade

Organization deemed illegal U.S. steel tariffs.

A brief review of almost any major European newspaper’s stance

on American policy for the past two years is revealing. Yes,

France’s daily Le Monde has called United States policies

“extraordinary, unjust and arrogant” among other things. The

mainstream British paper Mirror is even more indicting, however,

labeling America the “World’s Leading Rogue State.” The British

Guardian called the country an “unrepentant, outlaw nation.” The

German justice minister came under great controversy last year for

comparing Bush to Hitler, and yet the Washington Post explained

that the paper was reflecting “how most Germans felt.”

The British incidences are especially telling when one recalls

that Britain is supposed to be the United States’ closest ally. The

cooperation of Tony Blair with the United States, however, has

earned the prime minister strong criticism from within his party

and, more strongly, from his people. America has done little to

boost international opinion. On a recent and widely protested visit

to Britain, the most that Bush could manage to defend his image was

an interview with the Sun, a tabloid that prints National

Inquirer-grade news and publishes half-nude women regularly in its


It is tempting for some to say, so what? Even if most of the

world has major problems with American policy, who cares what they

think? After all, we didn’t become the most powerful nation in the

world for nothing.

However, ignorance of international opinion ignores the

inevitable complexities of an increasingly unified world. No matter

what realm of life one looks in, the evidence of international

integration and the presence of the “international community” is

evident. From the World Wide Web, to the World Trade Organization,

to NATO, it is impossible to imagine any country that of isolated

from the rest of the world functioning successfully. While our own

government operates under checks and balances, it might be helpful

to think of international opinion as a fourth check on policy, one

that should be heeded for its importance and relevance.

If America continues on its present course, and if comments like

those listed above don’t cease to be fired at our government, there

may take shape an international order in which the United States

and Europe will be defined in opposition to each other, instead of

as a cohesive unit. The Bush administration and whoever holds the

White House a year from now would do well to remember what the

support of a troubled world can do for a damaged nation, no matter

how powerful that nation may think itself to be. Perhaps the French

will one day be encouraged to reprint their symbolic and unifying

headline, printed in the post-Sept. 11 days in Le Monde: “We Are

All Americans.”

Brent is a freshman studying philosophy. His column runs every

other Wednesday.

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